Martin O’Neill’s most famous quote once was “I think Ashley Young is world class, I’d put him in a bracket with Lionel Messi and Ronaldo.” Bought by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2012 with the intention of retaining the Premier League, Ashley got off to a fairly decent start at the club. He etched his name into the memories of the Old Trafford faithful’s with 2 wonderful strikes against old foes Arsenal in an 8-2 mauling. He played with flair and pace as his friends, wooing the fans with his wonderful crossing. With the departure of Sir Alex, Young’s role in the team didn’t seem like one that was bound to change but how wrong he was.
With the arrival of Moyes, Young continued to play down the left flank for what can be said was his last full season as a midfielder. With the onset of Louis Van Gaal’s “philosophy” and change of formation, his role transformed from a winger to a wing back. Having never played the role of a defender in his career thus far, Young took it up as a challenge metamorphosing into a reliable defender. Over the years under Mourinho and Ole his role has changed from wing back – full back – left back – right back. Injuries to key players has led to him today filling in roles for the team due to his experience.
His lack of permanency in any particular role has led to his performances dwindling with this age. The lack of maturity in his performances though evidently visible are a culmination of his own doing as well as the team’s incessant restructuring. Having played over 550+ games in his career Ashley’s experience in the league and the game could be a massive learning curve for the young boys coming out of the academy. He might no longer possess the flair and technique with which he came into the game but he’s stuck by the club during these trying times when he could have been enjoying his sunset years in the game and raking in the moolah overseas.
He might not be the preferred player for any position in the starting XI but nobody can question his love and passion for the club and its’ fans. He deserves immense respect for putting himself on the line whenever and wherever the club has needed him. Let’s hope his departure/retirement gets him the ovation he truly deserves.